Lets face it. When you tell your work colleagues that you’re working from home there is a silent groan that permeates the office. You immediately feel the need to justify it with explanations of how difficult it is, how much work you have to complete and that massive project that needs your undivided attention. By contrast, all of your colleagues are no doubt thinking whilst you make your long winded defence, that it will be feet up watching Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women with a cup of coffee and your favourite chocolate hobnob in hand, slippers at the ready.
If in our ever more connected world working from home makes more and more sense to employers and employees alike, why does it still continue to foster resentment and guilt amongst workers across the globe. It has reached the stage where we can literally conduct business anywhere in the world. Connectivity has reached even the most tricky environments. We are always on call. We can respond to a vital client request at the speed of light regardless of whether we are in the office in New York, skiing in Chamonix or lounging on a beach in the Caribbean. Meetings can be held at a moment's notice, spanning the globe free using Skype.
Now of course this wasn’t quite the case 20 years ago when connectivity entailed dialling in and waiting an eternity to simply get an internet connection. Video conferencing meant getting into a car to a serviced office many miles away and with a hefty price tag to boot. You were difficult to get hold of especially if the phone line was taken up with sending or receiving a large fax. It is the hangover from these days that still permeates the office environment.
Then of course when the alarm goes off at the usual "OMG" time the challenges really start. Reality bites…you don’t have to rush out the door whilst showering and changing like a scene from Wallace & Gromit…cue first dilemma of the day..do I snooze or get up? Breakfast in bed or at the dining room table with laptop set up? And that’s just the start of it. There are distractions aplenty. Kids who think since Mum or Dad is at home, it must mean they are on holiday. And don’t tell your parents you're working from home as they will be calling you on the hour every hour with a mixture of disbelief and amazement that you are not in the office. Quizzing you with the interrogation skills of a grizzled homicide detective on whether you still actually have a job. And all the time your extra large Ultra High Def TV is screaming to be turned on as the golf is being streamed live. Just 5 minutes its fine. I can tap on my laptop while watching it with the sound turned down.
Lunch in the garden…the sun is out. Time is marching on. Lock the dog out of the dining room while I am on that conference call. Maybe head down the gym after work…maybe just before…after lunch.
The temptations are inevitable and real and before you know it, you end up doing more work at the weekend in order to compensate for the work you didn’t complete on Friday working from home.
So how do you survive all these traps and ensure that working from home enhances your career and makes you soar to greater heights rather than crash and burn.
First and foremost, you have to be ruthlessly strict. With your planning, your time and your work ethic. Plan your day. Not in the morning over a leisurely coffee but at the very latest by the day before. Itemise each hour with military precision. This is your key to success. Remember the old adage. Fail to plan and you plan to fail.
As soon as you wake up you should be ahead of the game. Get up as usual at the same time but instead of heading to the car or train station for your commute, set up your work station. A working breakfast and ensure that you have everything you need to hand. Plan printed out and next to you so you can tick it off as you go along. Before you know it just becomes like second nature. And the sense of achievement as you complete your tasks through the day gives you that continued boost that you need to keep you motivated. Table regular breaks and time to get away from your desk.
If you still harbour those worries as to how you will be perceived in the office then there are some easy ways around this. If you have a shared calendar then ensure that you add your timed plan into your calendar so your team can see exactly what you are spending your time doing. Avoid the all day marker “Working from Home” or the simple “Busy” for the day. If you really want to ensure buy in then why not send your plan to your boss beforehand and ask if there is anything they would like to add to the day. By asking if they need time with you and to review your plan, they will see immediately that you are the structured, planned and a diligent employee they always believed you were when they hired you. A timely reminder when it comes to your appraisal.
However, there is one more vital component that is needed. Without this all will inevitably fail. You need to ensure that your household has also bought into the whole concept. Make sure that you run through with the family what it means when you are working from home. Set the ground rules so your work area doesn’t become a convenient stop on the way to the kitchen, play room or front door.
As well-intentioned as it might be, having the constant invasions by tiny feet may well be entertaining and adorable but doesn’t help very much when it comes to finishing that crucial report. We have all seen the viral video of the expert being interviewed at home on BBC News only to have a toddler poddle in on their walker, swiftly followed by the playful 4 year old with the manic mum frantically trying to get them all out. It's comedy gold but a valuable lesson none the less! When you have your family fully supportive and understanding of the discipline it takes to work from home, the more effective it will become for you.
Once you embrace all of the above then working from home ceases to become such a daunting prospect and will truly liberate you. Above all, structured well, it can be the catalyst to driving your career to new and unimaginable heights. Jeremy Kyle will have forever lost another viewer.